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Novel Technology Driving Future Direction in Wellbeing Diagnostics

Mar 30, 2022 11:00:00 AM / by Karolina Künnapuu

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Tracking one’s health and wellbeing has never been as easy as it is in the 21st century. In addition to the wealth of health-related information easily available on the internet, the evolution of portable and wearable technology has made it possible to track aspects of one’s wellbeing on the go. Sleep quality, stress levels, and heart rate are only some of the health indicators that widely available smart devices allow users to assess. Wearable wellbeing diagnostics are in high demand and the industry is experiencing rapid growth: the number of connected wearable devices worldwide more than doubled between 2016 and 2019 and is expected to surpass 1 billion in 2022 (1), while the market for wearable health sensors is predicted to grow by 10.5% between 2021 and 2026 (2).

 

Portable wellbeing diagnostic devices are useful in a variety of applications: in addition to tracking general health and fitness, novel wearable devices are increasingly being developed to allow for specialised diagnostics and tracking for conditions that require frequent monitoring. Widespread use of such devices could ultimately reduce the strain on the healthcare system as disease monitoring becomes easier and health monitoring allows diseases to be detected in the early stages (3). Being able to track diagnostic information continuously and remotely could lessen the need for frequent appointments with healthcare providers, which would not only free up time and resources for healthcare professionals but also make high-quality health care accessible for those who have difficulty visiting healthcare institutions. Furthermore, routine health check-ups can be made easier by having access to continuous health monitoring data from patients’ wearable devices.

 

Diagnostic devices for wellbeing most often come in the form of a smartphone, with Bluetooth-connected smartwatches and smart rings also gaining popularity in recent years. These smart devices come equipped with various sensors (see figure 1) that can be used to monitor health in a variety of ways. Most smartphone users are familiar with their phone’s heart rate measuring and location tracking capabilities and many utilise them to monitor aspects of their daily life, such as sleep quality and activity levels. Incorporating health diagnostics into wearable fashion items with aesthetic value, such as watches and rings, increases the penetration of remote health monitoring in the general public and helps raise people’s awareness of their health.

 

Karolina- Novel tech wearables blog

Figure 1. Examples of sensors included in smartphones (figure from reference 3)

 

Smartphones’ potential as a diagnostic device doesn’t end with general health monitoring. Smartphones have, for example, the capability of determining breath flow and volume, and have been used for lung rehabilitation in individuals with asthma (2). Location and sleep information from smartphones has been suggested to identify individuals at risk of developing mental illness. Smartphones have even been proposed as potential devices for the diagnosis of skin cancer and ophthalmic diseases through photography and analysis by artificial intelligence. Wearable devices that are connected to the Internet also allow for tracking data to be shared directly with physicians and other medical professionals for monitoring purposes (2). Although these features do not currently reach the level of accuracy provided by dedicated diagnostic devices and personal attention from medical professionals, they can be useful in enabling the early detection of certain diseases and reducing costs for patients (3).

 

A new and significant advancement in the field of wearable technology is diagnostics based on biofluids. These kinds of wearable medical sensors come in a variety of forms and allow the detection or monitoring of biological markers of disease present in biofluids such as tears, sweat, and blood. Smart wound dressings can be used to track wound healing and the presence of inflammation or pathogens at the site of the wound. Microneedle patches utilising smart sensors can detect blood glucose levels in patients with diabetes. Specialised contact lenses enable the detection of intraocular pressure, glucose, or inflammatory cytokines as predictors of diabetes or eye diseases. Temporary tattoos capable of measuring heart rate or detected biomarkers in sweat have also been developed (4).

 

Novel wearable sensors often utilise electrochemical sensing as their detection platform. These systems are highly sensitive, small in scale, and adaptable for a wide range of uses. Microfluidics can process very small volumes of fluid, making them a great platform for small wearable biofluid-based diagnostic devices. Microfluidics has been used, for example, in patches and rings that detect biomarkers in sweat. Graphene’s property of high conductivity, flexibility, and large surface area to volume ratio (4, 5), is an excellent material for electrochemical biosensors. Graphene has been used, for example, as a biosensing film in smart contact lenses (4) and in a microneedle patch that can monitor markers of diabetes in sweat and administer drugs accordingly (5). Additionally, graphene has also been utilised in wellbeing tracking technology in the form of thin adhesive patches applied to the skin, that have similar health tracking functions as a smartwatch but with greater mobility and comfort (6). Incorporating electrochemical biosensors in wearable devices allows for very thin, light-weight devices that are comfortable and convenient for the wearer and don’t require an external energy supply to maintain (4).

 

Wearable wellbeing diagnostics is a rapidly growing industry with great potential for further development. The applications of wearable technology in healthcare extends over a wide range, from smartphones measuring simple health indicators, such as heart rate, to intelligent contact lenses capable of predicting glaucoma based on tear composition. Innovation in wearable wellbeing diagnostic devices is partially driven through the utilisation of electrochemical sensing platforms, which allows for sensitive biosensing at small volumes. The widespread use of wellbeing diagnostics and wearable health monitoring devices has the potential to improve patient monitoring, enable early detection and treatment of diseases and lower costs for patients and healthcare providers alike.

 

Are you developing a wellbeing diagnostic device and looking to explore the potential of graphene?

 

 

References

  1. How wearable technology is transforming wellbeing in the workplace (2021). Available at: https://www.jll.co.uk/en/trends-and-insights/workplace/how-wearable-technology-is-transforming-wellbeing-in-the-workplace (Accessed: 17 March 2022).
  2. Global Wearable Health Sensors Market | 2022 - 27 | Industry Share, Size, Growth - Mordor Intelligence (no date). Available at: https://www.mordorintelligence.com/industry-reports/global-wearable-health-sensors-market-industry (Accessed: 17 March 2022).
  3. Majumder, S. and Deen, M.J. (2019) ‘Smartphone Sensors for Health Monitoring and Diagnosis’, Sensors (Basel, Switzerland), 19(9), p. 2164.
  4. Cheng, S., Gu, Z.., Zhou, L., Hao, M., An, H., Song, K., Wu, X., Zhang, K., Zhao, Z., Dong, Y., Wen, Y. (2021) ‘Recent Progress in Intelligent Wearable Sensors for Health Monitoring and Wound Healing Based on Biofluids’, Frontiers in Bioengineering and Biotechnology, 9.
  5. Lee, H., Choi, T., Lee, Y., Cho, H., Ghaffari, R., Wang, L., Choi, H., Chung, T., Lu, N., Hyeon, T., Choi., S., Kim, D. (2016) ‘A graphene-based electrochemical device with thermoresponsive microneedles for diabetes monitoring and therapy’, Nature Nanotechnology, 11(6), pp. 566–572.
  6. Stolyar, B. (2019) With a Graphene-Based Wearable, You May Never Have to Wear a Fitness Tracker Again | PCMag. Available at: https://www.pcmag.com/news/with-a-graphene-based-wearable-you-may-never-have-to-wear-a-fitness-tracker (Accessed: 16 March 2022).

 

 

Tags: Point of Care

Karolina Künnapuu

Written by Karolina Künnapuu

Karolina has a background in Pharmacology